Cooperation, discipline, ability to work as a team, willingness to sacrifice for the common good (in short, asabiya of Ibn Khaldun) is what wins battles and wars, not ferocity of individual warriors.
The Science of Science Fiction: The Dune Hypothesis
Author: Peter Turchin
Source: Social Evolution Forum
I am an avid consumer of science fiction and fantasy novels. The most interesting aspect of such fiction to me is how authors construct social structures within which their heroes operate. Whether this happens in some alternate world where magic is possible, or “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” the authors need to create an internally consistent social reality. Some novels are so bad at this, that I stop reading them in disgust. But a surprising number of authors do quite a good job, probably because they have read enough history to internalize general mechanisms underlying the functioning of historical societies (cliodynamics), even if these authors would be unable to explicitly formulate these rules.
One example is Dune by Frank Herbert. I don’t know whether Herbert read Ibn Khaldun, but much of his cliodynamics, especially the aspects dealing with Arrakis and Fremen, could come directly from Ibn Khaldun. As a result, he creates a highly believable world (well, this is a science fiction novel), both ecologically and sociologically. This must have been an important reason why this novel was so successful.
There is one law of historical dynamics that Herbert discusses explicitly. This general rule may be formulated as follows: Harsh environmental conditions create a selective regime under which only the best survive, producing cultures with tough and capable warriors. This is the reason why the Emperor recruits his best shock troops, the Sardaukar, from the prison planet Salusa Secundus. Only the Fremen, evolving under equally harsh conditions of Arrakis, can match the ferocity and fighting ability of the Sardaukar.
Dr. Turchin is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut. Peter was trained as a population biologist and is now applying his theoretical and empirical skills to develop the field of Cliodynamics–the quantitative study of human history. His books include Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall and War
and War Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires
Read more at Social Evolution Forum